Her name is Megan. I should know her. She should be in my science class. Every school day I should hear her voice, collect her homework, ask her questions, and see her interact with classmates. But I won’t.
Megan’s laughter should ring in the hallways. But it doesn’t. It never will. Why? Because ten years ago her voice was silenced when a 22-year old man’s choice shattered lives, changed history, and robbed the world of the chance to know this vivacious girl.
Placed on a restricted license, he shouldn’t have driven anywhere. Yet, after visiting a local bar and downing drinks, he chose to disregard logic and the law, and got behind the wheel. His choice sent shockwaves through a family unit that to this day still causes pain.
Megan was an innocent 5-year-old girl riding in the back of a van with her family on her way to a Friday evening children’s program. The van driver did nothing wrong while making that left-hand turn. The fault lay squarely on the shoulders of the man who smashed into the rear of their vehicle.
And at the instant that crash occurred, a life long nightmare began to unfold.
The impact was so violent it ripped the van seats from the floorboards and tossed passengers from the spots they occupied. Each family member suffered physical injuries that, given time, would heal. All that is, except one. Megan. Her little 5-year-old body was broken beyond repair, and although they tried, the trauma team could not save her.
Ironically the drunken man didn’t feel a thing or suffer a single scratch. In fact, he was so inebriated that he exited the vehicle, stumbled around on the road, then got back in his car and fled the scene. Close to midnight, the police finally located him. Where was he? In his bed sleeping off his drunken stupor and completely oblivious to the destruction for which he was responsible.
The day was Saint Patrick’s Day. Every year, that day brings a flood of memories, rips open old wounds and reminds the family (as if they need reminding) they will never be the same.
As moments crept by after the tragedy, the family dealt with their grief in different ways. After the funeral, Megan’s father threw himself into his work. That was his coping mechanism. He worked until his body revolted.
Slowly, healing edged in, as the family began looking at this tragedy from the standpoint of light.
But how could tragedy breed light?
Megan’s father will tell you, “In the form of blessings.”
Within a two-week time frame I heard Sam’s story three times. Each time shook me to my core as I grappled with the question, “How can one ever recover from a tragedy such as this?”
Sam will tell you that you never completely recover, but you can move forward in the new normal.
How is that even possible? I wondered. Sam again mentioned blessings.
One of the first—he was at a conference when the crash occurred, and it took him several hours to get to the hospital. While en route he had phone conversations with people privy to information, yet he didn’t know his daughter was gone until after he arrived at the hospital. In fact, that thought never crossed his mind as he traversed the highway.
Additional blessings Sam shared brought tears to my eyes that flowed unchecked.
- “Megan’s body was broken and bruised, but her face was untouched and perfect.”
- “If I close my eyes while my youngest son is talking, I can hear Megan’s voice through him.”
- “I know I will see her again in eternity.”
- God was ever present in those days after Megan’s death and funeral. “I felt God’s protection, like you’re covered with a heavy blanket on you.”
Friendships, encouragement, and prayers spoke volumes to this family as they walked some of the darkest days of their life. On one occasion a man came and sat next to Sam, but didn’t speak for the longest time. Eventually the man quoted Psalm 23. For whatever reason, some people run from folks who traverse this kind of tragedy. “That hurts,” Sam admitted. But this man—his presence—just him being there and not saying a word brought comfort.
Much has changed in the ten years since this tragedy. The family has shared many moments together, but know that life would be different if their daughter was still alive.
Five years ago, Sam felt like he needed to do something to keep her light aflame. “How would anger or bitterness honor her?” he questioned. “Her life mattered! He decided he couldn’t allow another year to pass without trying to stimulate change or promote some good from such a tragic loss.
For the past five years, Sam has shared their story with thousands. He’s spoken with high school students, youth groups, DUI panels, and civic organizations. He talks about his 5-year-old daughter whose face lit up the room, and how one man’s choice ripped her from their lives. He shows the groups her picture, and tells them she was buried in a Cinderella dress. He confesses, “I know the sting of death, and it’s still present.”
Our days are numbered. Our earthly life is not eternal. Our moments on this earth are just that—moments—vaporized in a matter of moments.
People make life or death choices on a daily basis. Sam’s goal is to promote life.
If he were writing this post he would ask you this question—will you choose life?
As always, your comments are welcome – Jill
This is the first post in a 3-part series on this topic. Click Victim Impact Panel to read part 2.
The final installment of this 3-part series discusses the costs of drunk driving crashes. Click More Than A Number to read part 3.
To contact Sam regarding speaking engagements via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
** All information in this post has been shared with permission.